The MedCo statement was bullish following the publication of the recent government consultation on its future. They are “confident that everything we are required to do will be successfully achieved before the April 2020 deadline”. This sounds positive for claimants. MASS’ primary concern with medical reports is that the accident victim must be fully protected and provided for from the first day of operation of any new system.
Nevertheless, some of the fundamental issues with the evolution of MedCo to serve self-litigants remain. Where an unrepresented claimant is paying for the report themselves, a fee of £180 plus VAT may be a considerable barrier to access to justice, with some less well-off claimants prevented from bringing a disputed claim to trial before a court. Financial status must never be a barrier to being able to pursue a claim.
Unrepresented claimants will require considerable assistance throughout the process. Understanding how medical reports are commissioned and by whom. The legal implications of a letter of instruction and how to commission additional experts. Links to websites explaining the distinction between a T1 and a T2 MRO/DME are all well and good, but for many self-litigants this will simply add to the confusion and difficulty of making a claim without legal representation. Commitments about terms of service and response times, length of appointment and appropriate venues for examination. There will need to be strict corporate sanctions to deal with MROs/DMEs who do not adhere to the rules that are established. Understanding the actual reports and any medical or legal terminology. How to challenge reports if there are errors or disputes. Grasp the settlement process, the options available to them and understand who pays and when. A functioning audit process of MROs in place.
It is good that the government is not proceeding with adding additional specialists to the MedCo process. Given the timeframe and potential complications this would certainly have been a step too far. MedCo has already just about navigated major changes in its short four-year history. These new challenges must be overcome satisfactorily before the new process is launched. The system is already too stacked against claimants.
Paul Nicholls, author of New Challenges, is Chair, Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and Senior Partner at Nicholls Brimble Bhol Solicitors
This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine, Issue 41, November 2019